What's In Blue

Posted Wed 26 Oct 2022

Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Open Briefing on Article 100 of the UN Charter

This afternoon (26 October), following the private meeting on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing under the agenda item “maintenance of international peace and security”. The meeting was requested by Russia in response to letters sent to the Council by France, Germany, the UK, and the US arguing that Iran’s reported transfer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia contravenes resolution 2231 of 20 July 2015, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. In requesting the meeting, Russia apparently cited alleged “risks to the integrity of the UN Charter, to the Organisation and the ability of the Security Council to perform its main function posed by the attempts of certain member states to influence the UN Secretariat in the discharge of its responsibilities in violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter”. Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares is expected to brief.

On 14 October, Ukraine wrote a letter to the Council alleging that Iran had transferred Mohajer and Shahed-series UAVs to Russa in late August. In its letter, Ukraine argued that the transfers violate resolution 2231, which prohibits member states from acquiring certain materials set out in an annex to the letter dated 16 July 2015 (S/2015/546) from Iran, unless the acquisitions are approved by the Council on a case-by-case basis, and imposes an assets freeze on Iranian aerospace company Qods Aviation, the alleged manufacturer of Mohajer-series UAVs. The letter also invited “UN experts” to visit Ukraine to “inspect recovered Iranian-origin UAVs in order to facilitate implementation of [resolution 2231]”.

It appears that the allegations raised by Ukraine, together with reports that Russia has used UAVs to target critical infrastructure in Ukraine in recent weeks, prompted the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) to request a meeting under “any other business” to discuss alleged arms transfers from Iran to Russia. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo briefed during the meeting, which took place on 19 October. In the discussion that followed DiCarlo’s briefing, several Council members apparently called for the Secretariat to investigate the claims made in Ukraine’s letter.

On 21 October, the US sent a letter to the Council accusing Iran and Russia of violating resolution 2231 and requesting that the Secretariat conduct an investigation “that assesses the type of UAVs involved in these transfers in light of the prohibitions contained in the resolution”. France, Germany, and the UK, all of whom are parties to the JCPOA, sent a letter to the Council on the same day which also alleged that Iran and Russia had contravened resolution 2231. In the letter, these member states noted that they “would welcome an investigation by the Secretariat”, adding that they “stand ready to support the work of the Secretariat in conducting its technical and impartial investigation”.

Russia also sent a letter to the Council on 21 October, which argued that the support for an investigation outlined in the letter written by France, Germany, and the UK and certain statements made by the Secretariat amount to a violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter. Among other matters, Article 100 provides that “the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any authority external to the Organisation” and stipulates that member states undertake “not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities”.

Russia’s letter accused DiCarlo of “openly sid[ing] with a number of western delegations” by confirming during the 19 October meeting that the Secretariat is “ready to engage” with an investigation into the alleged transfers of UAVs from Iran to Russia. It also referred to a statement made by Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric during his daily press briefing on 20 October, in which he said that “the Secretary-General’s actions, the Secretariat’s action … is based on the Charter and based on instructions given to us … from member states and is done without prejudice”. Russia further contended in its letter that the Secretariat does not have a mandate to conduct investigations in the context of resolution 2231.

Council members disagree as to whether the Secretariat has the authority to investigate alleged violations of resolution 2231. Note S/2016/44 of 16 January 2016, which sets out the practical arrangements and procedures by which the Council carries out tasks related to resolution 2231, requests that the Secretary-General report to the Council “every six months on the implementation of resolution 2231”. The reports issued by the Secretary-General pursuant to this request often refer to communications received from member states regarding possible violations of resolution 2231 and outline the work undertaken by the Secretariat in response to these communications and the findings arising from that work. The most recent report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 2231 (S/2022/490), for example, refers to a visit by the Secretariat to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to examine the debris of certain missiles and UAVs and the Secretariat’s finding that some of the debris had “key design features unique to the Iranian Qiam-type short-range ballistic missile”.

Russia has regularly objected to this type of reporting by the Secretariat. During the 30 June briefing on resolution 2231, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy said that “we continue to be very much troubled by the illegitimate practice of the Secretariat in carrying out certain investigations under resolution 2231. We categorically object to that kind of activity by the Secretariat. Its mandate in the context of resolution 2231 is exclusively administrative and technical in nature, as set out in [Note S/2016/44]”. Other Council members, however, including the P3, have welcomed the Secretariat’s investigations into possible violations of resolution 2231.

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